Successful relationships require commitment and good communication. This advice often seems to be misconstrued as being limited to articulating views and beliefs clearly to the other. Good communication should be reciprocal, aimed at mutual understanding.
Too often we just want to be heard without committing to listening deeply to others. If we are uninterested in discovering the other person’s reality, they are unlikely to want to discover ours, no matter how clearly we state it. The conversation will only go so far.
The national conversations about hot button issues abound with this type of advice: Call them out. Tell them how you feel. Demand the change. There should be no discussion because they’re bad/evil/pedophiles. What started off as dialogue becomes a monologue, or worse, a shouting match that can escalate even further.
I understand, on some level, the logic of naming hurtful behavior unaccompanied by listening. I also feel it has the potential to undermine the civil discourse that leads to solutions and building bridges, especially as voices and tensions rise.
It’s easy to get mad and accuse someone else of being wrong or bad. It’s harder and more effective to be the adult in the room. Adults should have a two-way conversation while speaking their truth and listening with openness and compassion to others.
A reciprocal relationship also means we put our win/lose mentality aside and find win-wins. That reciprocity should exist not only in dialogue, but also in terms of allocation of responsibility, air-time (a chance to speak), and resources. Such solutions are most likely to be discovered through open and compassionate listening to those with differing viewpoints.
I’m not saying that we have to agree; we just need to understand why a reasonable person would say or do something that seems unreasonable to us. In most situations, there are multiple reasonable perspectives, even if we feel invested in our own.
As long as we fail to communicate at this level, the conflict will likely fall into the destructive, rather than the constructive end of the spectrum. (Think: kids yelling at each other on the playground, or using a duel to the death to resolve differences). Aren’t we smarter and more evolved than that?
These notions are also at play in our relationship with Earth.
If I had spent the first 50 years of my life in a monologue with Earth, it would’ve been an improvement over what was entailed me living a parallel life with nature, interrupted by only the most occasional of acknowledgments. While ignoring Earth, I was taking everything from her that I need to survive and enjoy my life. All I gave back in return was the waste associated with materialism and the pursuit of a comfortable lifestyle.
Imagine if we behaved that way in a human relationship. What could go wrong?
In my (our) defense, the way we communicate with Earth is different than how we communicate with other humans. Even if we could speak in the same tongue, it’s no guarantee there would be a mutual understanding. Misunderstandings are easy because only 7% of communication is through the spoken word, according to experts. The rest comes from body language and tone, from which interpretations are subjective and thus error-ridden.
However, the good news is that we can communicate with Earth through that other 93% using all five of our senses to open dialogue.
We also have an additional sense that seems to be developed in us to varying degrees: empathy. Roughly half of the population makes decisions in a feelings-based way. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment calls this F, feeling. This involves a heart-centered way of sensing the feelings of ourselves and others (including Earth IMHO), and which forms a pillar of emotional intelligence (EQ).
Granted, establishing a reciprocal conversation with Earth may A) sound weird and B) take some time and experimentation; just imagine the benefits of improving your relationship with the one who is literally part of who you are and everything you do.
In my empathic experience with Earth, Earth is longing to form these connections and relationships with each of us again, just like our ancestors and forefathers once did. This sense of connection to and integration with our natural world has been in our history for millennia. It seems we’ve recently forgotten how to live in a state of connected wonder with all parts of Earth, including the parts that seem non-living by our human standards.
And the more the modern world seems to spin in craziness, the more I long to connect simply and deeply with the one who provides nourishment and comfort, lay in her arms, and feel our heart resonance that makes me feel safe and loved unconditionally. I feel supported when I am open to all the ways she provides support and wisdom.
The way I connect reciprocally with Earth is akin to the way a baby provides to mama and papa. I am present with her. I listen intently. I notice and appreciate her wonders. I feel gratitude and happiness to be in her company. I do what I can to care for her too because the effort matters, even if it feels minuscule compared to her care for me.
In my mind and heart, there is no limit to what I should do to care for Earth. But I know, like mama, that she doesn’t expect much. She is enough on her own but our love and affection are like oxygen to her. Let’s all feed her in this manner. It’s the least we can do.